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Zoom! 5 ways to shift perspective.

How do you choose to see things differently? How do you zoom in to see the intricacies of something and simultaneously zoom out to see the beauty of the whole?

You’ve seen Away 2 Be on Instagram and Facebook. We tout the ideals of presence and shifting perspective. We admire the notion of stepping back to see the whole picture, the whole person. We revere the philosophy of accompaniment. But how do we do it? How do we recognize the beauty of now and see the good in humanity when the world suffers from injustice and poverty, malice and hatred?

On Away 2 Be programs and in our workshops, we do an activity called “Zoom”*. We look at a picture up close and try to guess what it is. As each picture progresses, the same image zooms out. With each new image, we recognize our judgment is neither right nor wrong. We learn that each person, though seeing the same image, has a different impression of what it might be. We discover, upon finally seeing the whole image, that we still don’t have the complete story. And maybe we never will.

I recently visited Tippet Rise, an outdoor sculpture gallery in Montana. From Patrick Dougherty’s “Daydreams” to Alexander Calder’s “Two Discs”, each piece at Tippet Rise also verified that the whole is a collaboration of details and can been seen in a new way when we choose to step back.  When I first approached “Daydreams”, I was so close that I only saw two windows.  It wasn’t until I walked to the road that I noticed the windows were part of a house and the house, (a schoolhouse), was entangled by trees, emulating the desire for the child within to escape into his own creative mind.

As artists and philosophers, analysts and entrepreneurs, mothers and sons, we try to make sense of our world, yet we will never fully understand it.  Photographers seek the perfect angle. Journalists choose questions to elicit truth. Painters dip their brushes into palettes of confusion, hoping their stroke resonates with the onlooker. Writers choose symbols yearning for meaning. Sculptors entice viewers to look at their works of art from different perspectives. Global leaders are always willing to listen, learn and change their minds. Travelers know that the destination will be enhanced by the journey.  Regardless of our vocation, it is imperative to be a thought leader for others, to present an experience causing others to question their own perspective.

So how do we shift our perspective? How do we zoom in and out? How do we become the photographer that recognizes, despite the multitude of lenses in her pack, she will never be able to fully articulate that essential moment in her life?  How do we look at the whole sculpture?

It’s simple. Here are 5 strategies to see things anew:

  1. 1.  Choose to recognize how little we know and how much we will always have to learn.
  2. 2.  Choose to ask questions and gain information through your experience instead of someone else’s.
  3. 3.  Choose to take risks, be vulnerable and face fears.
  4. 4.  Choose to be willing to change your mind.
  5. 5.  Choose to step forward and back, left and right, zoom in and out, go upside down, until you have seen all angles and know you still don’t know it all.

Away 2 Be challenges you to be authentic, open-minded and present. We invite you to connect with yourself in order to make meaningful changes in the world around you. We hope you will join in us at home and abroad on one of our adventures!

Susan Lambert

Founder, Away 2 Be

(Proudly, a hopeless optimist)

 

*Zoom is an Away 2 Be activity inspired by Istvan Banyai’s book entitled, Zoom.

Let’s do some good!

So this is how my life works:

I am loved. I am supported. I care more than I can handle, about the world, about it’s people. And I wander to places without a plan. I show up. I do my best to listen. I try to learn from instead of do for and I think that very intention is the reason I have wound up with a network of good people I consider my soul-friends around the world.

And sometimes I feel that I’ve been connected to certain people long before we have met. Recently this very sentiment occurred when I met with George. We sat down for a coffee in Quito and within minutes realized we had mutual friends in both Peru and the United States. In fact, George’s godson is my friend’s nephew! (The term “serendipity” has started to lose poignancy in my life because of its consistent presence.)

As we talked, George’s eyes welled up, not because of our connection, but because of his connection with friends and fellow citizens of Ecuador who tragically lost their homes due to the 7.8 earthquake on April 16th, 2016. George described his dear friends who have decided to cut down their own bamboo to build houses for those suffering. To date, the Caemba Casitas project has constructed 122 houses and 3 children’s centers serving hundreds of Ecuadorians. George and his friends have spent hours, days and weeks constructing these homes.

Those of you who know me know I believe in accompaniment over service, in relationships before help. Yet in times in which basic needs aren’t being met, when families are struggling to survive due to circumstances beyond their control, our duty is most certainly to be of service. We are all one. We must serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Here are a few ways you can help:

May your journey be meaningful. May you connect in meaningful ways with those you know and those you don’t. May you recognize all of the good in the world.

Susan

Founder, Away 2 Be

A letter to disruptors.

Dear colleague, teacher, disruptor, innovator,

I love that you are a proponent of “relationships first”.  Yes, relationships can be built through formative assessments, which are, in my opinion, a constant presence in an effective classroom.  Formative assessments are as simple as using one’s intuition to read an expression on a student’s face or watching the demeanor as he or she walks in the room.  Formative assessments gauge understanding, sometimes in seconds.  Formative assessments include listening to students and allowing for them to give feedback to one another.  Formative assessments create space for the facilitator to change direction of said lesson to ensure that each student is appropriately challenged.  And that takes humility.

Here is where I think we often lack in education and in society in general:  We talk about “building relationships” and “effective communication”, but we are rarely taught the skills we need and for some, developing relationships isn’t intuitive.  “Radical candor” can only be established once the foundation of the relationship is present. The foundation takes time, effort, vulnerability and a toolbox for myriad circumstances.

Design thinking falls short in the same way.  The first step of the design thinking process is empathy, but facilitators don’t discuss checking in with our own stories first. Instruction doesn’t describe how to embody effective empathy, it only assumes such an experience will ensue.

Facilitators, (I stray from the word “teachers”), must be conscious of the feedback they are giving.  Certain types of feedback will, indeed enhance relationships and certain feedback is simply to appease technical standards.  Self-assessment and peer feedback are the most authentic assessments.  Students often challenge themselves and each other more effectively than facilitators do, probably because of the pre-established relationship they have with one another. They already have built-in empathy because they’ve had time to understand one another.  Candor ensues based on inherent trust.

So maybe that’s where we need to focus: On the tools to build effective relationships first, knowing that they take time and knowing that we cannot know the outcome.  From there, we can develop formative assessments that cater to each individual.  In fact, why don’t they create the assessments and we’ll guide them along the way?! That is, in essence, accompaniment.

Susan